Late starts look towards a brighter future

Francis Howell district looks towards late start

In the Francis Howell School District, the high school start time is 7:20 a.m., middle school is 8:15 a.m., and elementary school is 9:10 a.m. In 2014, a Columbia, Missouri school district changed their daily high school start time from 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. According to the Los Angeles Times, 40 percent of American high schools start before 8 a.m., and 10 percent of these schools start before 7:30 a.m. The Francis Howell School District should flip the high and elementary school start times around, giving older students a chance for more sleep and more energy.

Students need between eight and a half to nine hours of sleep each night. Between school sports, other extracurriculars, jobs, and homework, students aren’t always able to get that recommended amount of sleep. According to Start School Later, Inc., nearly two-thirds of students get under eight hours of sleep, and two-fifths get under six.

For high school students, it can be harder for them to go to sleep early. This is caused by a shift in sleep patterns, or circadian rhythms, starting in early adolescence. For these students, the typical sleep cycle starts around 11 p.m., and ends around 8 a.m. An early wake-up call does not allow adolescents to get the sleep that they need for them to feel fully alert and awake. If school started even a half hour later, students would feel more energized.

Flipping the two school start times sound like a fantastic idea, but there are some disadvantages.

Most parents are off to work right before or after their children get to school, and extending the start time could make things more complicated for the parents. According to Sleeping Resources, if school start times were moved to 8 or 8:30 a.m., parents would not be able to see their kids off to school and make it to work on time. However, FHSD’s current elementary school start time is an example of that problem. If the start times for the elementary and high schools were flipped, parents of the younger children would be able to put them in Vacation Station after school while they are at work. High school students do not need their parents to be home with them. They would be able to get ready and head to school on their own, and parents would be able to go to work without any worries about being late.

Another issue is that if high school start times become later, it could overlap with elementary and middle school start times, so those start times may also have to be extended, or, the district may have to hire extra busses to accommodate all students from all schools. Doing this would cost the district extra money that could be used on other things, like smaller class sizes.

All in all, there are pros and cons to extending the school start time. Because of adolescent’s shift  in sleep patterns and early wake-up calls, students are more fatigued, and they are not energized enough to tackle the day. Is it worth it if the district has to hire more busses? If it means students will be more energized and learn better, then yes, it is worth it. The district does not need to be in the 10 percent of schools that start before 7:30 a.m., so the start time needs to change.